Title: Diary of a bookseller
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Author: Shaun Bythell
Publication date: 2017
Sinopsis: Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown - Scotland's largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving, with twisting corridors and roaring fires, and all set in a beautiful, rural town by the edge of the sea. A book-lover's paradise? Well, almost...
In these wry and hilarious diaries, Shaun provides an inside look at the trials and tribulations of life in the book trade, from struggles with eccentric customers to wrangles with his own staff, who include the ski-suit-wearing, bin-foraging Nicky. He takes us with him on buying trips to old estates and auction houses, recommends books (both lost classics and new discoveries), introduces us to the thrill of the unexpected find, and evokes the rhythms and charms of small-town life, always with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
One of the most pleasant things for a reader is reading a book about books. It's like feeling at home twice. You share the author's concerns, discover new books, relate to the hobbies and bibliophile customs of the characters... Thats all you'll feel (and even more) when you read Diary of a bokseller, the diary of the adventures and curious acquisitions of a bookseller who doesn't mince his words.
Shaun Bythell is the real owner of The Bookshop, the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland, and he's quite a character. Well, the truth is that all the people that appear in this diary look like they have come out from a novel. Perhaps that's is because of Bythells's observant and sarcastic way of narrating the events. Anyway, you'll soon feel as if walking through the streets of Wigtown and greeting its inhabitants...
But above all you'll end up wanting to go in person to the bookstore and discover all its nooks, and perhaps find a copy of The Origin of Species and a Bible together in the fiction section... ^. ^
The novel's tone is close, entertaining and cynical, and I am sure that everyone who knows what dealing with customers at work means will relate to the Bythell's experiences, and will feel relieved reading his reactions. In fact, Diary of a bookseller is partly a study of human nature, because you will see all kinds of personalities parading before Shaun's eyes.
What's pretty clear is Bythell doesn't pull his punches when it comes to talking and writing about what he thinks. His reflexions can be sharp, funny and sometimes quite poetic, especially when he describes the nature that surrounds him and his rhythm of life.
The book also criticizes the disappearance of small publishers and bookstores because of the big companies like Amazon and the wild price competitiveness.
In fact, some of my favourite parts were the prologues you will find at the beginning of each month in which Shaun selects excerpts from Bookshop Memories by George Orwell, and explains how the facts Orwell ponders about have changed since then. Not to mention the varied recommendations that you will discover, such as Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores (by Jen Campbell), which Malpaso Ediciones has also translated into Spanish.
And speaking of recommendations, mine is to read this book gradually along with other novels, since it does not have a plot in itself, and each "month" can be read independently.
If not, it can become quite repetitive, just like it happened to me. The first 100 pages are the most surprising, but from the middle on I ended up leafing through the rest. In addition, the end is totally in the air and does not feel like finished.
Anyway, I found it a very original and stimulating way to promote and claim the importance and value of bookstores like Shaun Bythell's.
I am sure that we would have a great collection of very funny books full of very peculiar anecdotes if more bookshops followed his example... I give you my word, Mixa's word!
Shaun Bythell reads a fragment of his book, which includes a recommendation letter he wrote at the request of one of his employees... XD